The R&A - Working for Golf

Player Conduct and Spirit of the Game

It is one of the central principles of the game of golf that players play by the Rules and in the spirit of the game.  Rule 1.2 is an important Rule in the Rules of Golf as it details the conduct that is expected of all players and what is meant by spirit of the game.

Rule 1.2 reads as follows:

“All players are expected to play in the spirit of the game by:

  • Acting with integrity – for example, by following the Rules, applying all penalties, and being honest in all aspects of play.
  • Showing consideration to others – for example, by playing at a prompt pace, looking out for the safety of others, and not distracting the play of another player.
  • Taking good care of the course– for example, by replacing divots, smoothing bunkers, repairing ball-marks, and not causing unnecessary damage to the course.

There is no penalty under the Rules for failing to act in this way, except that the Committee may disqualify a player for acting contrary to the spirit of the game if it finds that the player has committed serious misconduct.

Penalties other than disqualification may be imposed for player misconduct only if those penalties are adopted as part of a Code of Conduct under Rule 1.2b."

This page is intended to provide further details of how a player should act and to ensure they are playing in the spirit of the game.

Care for the Course and Consideration of Others

Rule 1.2 provides guidelines on the manner in which the game of golf should be played.  If they are followed, all players will gain maximum enjoyment. 

The overriding principle is that players are expected to play in the spirit of the game. Two key aspects of this are that players are expected to care for the course and show consideration for others.

Explore the panels opposite to find out more.

Care of The Course






Before leaving a bunker, players should carefully fill up and smooth over all holes and footprints. If a rake is within reasonable proximity of the bunker, the rake should be used for this purpose.

Divots, Ball-Marks & Shoe Damage

Players should carefully repair any divot holes and any damage to the putting green made by the impact of a ball (whether or not made by the player himself).

On completion of the hole by all players in the group, damage to the putting green caused by golf shoes should be repaired.

Preventing Unnecessary Damage

Players and caddies should avoid causing damage to the course. For example:

  • Do not remove divots when taking practice swings or by hitting the club into the ground, whether in anger or for any other reason. Ensure you do not damage the putting green when putting down bags or the flagstick.
    • Avoid standing too close to the hole and take care when handling the flagstick and when removing a ball from the hole. Do not use the clubhead to remove a ball from the hole.
    • Do not lean on a club on the putting green.
    • If the flagstick has been removed, replace it in the centre of the hole.
    • Follow any local notices regulating the movement of golf carts.






    Prompt Pace of Play

    You should play at a prompt pace throughout the round, including the time taken to:

    • Prepare for and make each stroke,
    • Move from one place to another between strokes, and
    • Move to the next teeing area after completing a hole.

    You should prepare in advance for your next stroke and be ready to play when it is your turn.

    When its your turn to play:

    • It is recommended that you make the stroke in no more than 40 seconds after you are (or should be) able to play without interference or distraction, and
    • You should usually be able to play more quickly than that and are encouraged to do so.

    Lost Ball

    If you think your ball may be lost outside a water hazard or is out of bounds, to save time, play a provisional ball.






    No Disturbance or Distraction 

    You should always show consideration for other players on the course and take care not to not disturb their play by moving, talking or making unnecessary noise.

    You should also ensure that any electronic devices taken onto the course don't distract other players.

    Only tee your ball up when it's your turn to play and remember not to stand close to the ball, directly behind it, or directly behind the hole, when a player is about to swing.

    On the Putting Green 

    On the putting green, you should be careful not stand on another players line of play or, when he or she is putting, cast a shadow over his or her line.

    And you should remain on or close to the putting green until all other players in the group have holed out.


    In stroke play, if you're acting as a marker, on the way to the next tee you should, if necessary, check the score with the player concerned and record it.


    Player’s should ensure that no one is standing close by or in a position to be hit by the club, the ball or any stones, pebbles, twigs or the like when they make a stroke or practice swing.

    Wait until the players in front are out of range. Players should always alert greenstaff nearby or ahead when they are about to make a stroke that might endanger them.

    If your ball is heading in a direction where there is a danger of it hitting someone, shout a warning immediately. The traditional word of warning is fore!.

    Priority on the Course

    Unless otherwise determined by the Committee, priority on the course is determined by a group’s pace of play. Any group playing a whole round is entitled to pass a group playing a shorter round. The term “group” includes a single player.

    It should be remembered that consideration should be shown to others on the course at all times.

    Penalties for Breach and Code of Conduct

    If players play in the spirit of the game by following Rule 1.2, it will make the game more enjoyable for everyone.

    There is no penalty under the Rules for failing to act in this way, except that the Committee may disqualify a player for acting contrary to the spirit of the game if it finds that the player has committed serious misconduct.  For further guidance on what is meant by serious misconduct, see Interpretation 1.2a/1

    However, a Committee may set its own standards of player conduct in a Code of Conduct adopted as a Local Rule.

    • The Code may include penalties for breach of its standards, such as a one-stroke penalty or the general penalty.
    • TheCommitteemay also disqualify a player for serious misconduct in failing to meet the Codes standards.

    See Committee Procedures, Section 5H (explaining the standards of player conduct that may be adopted).